Monday, August 30, 2021
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 96. Following as it does on our first reading from Thessalonians, the psalm is an encouragement to trust God completely and to demonstrate that trust in unconditional praise.
The tone of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians suggests that, since his last visit, many of their community have died. The people are grieving, and they are unsure of what their new faith offers them.
Reading this passage today, I was taken back a few months to the first wave of COVID through our local Mercy community. Several of our sisters died. Their deaths came relentlessly, one after the other. There was a painful point at which we hated to hear the phone ring in the morning because it carried so many daily losses to us.
When, after weeks of bereavement, we were unlocked to visit one another again, there was a stunning emptiness in so many of the beloved spaces of our community!
We, who loved these sisters and the brave beauty of their generous lives, felt a grief reminiscent of the emotions in this plaintive song from Les Miserables.
That same kind of grief ripped though our nation this week with the murders of thirteen service members and nearly 200 Afghans at the Kabul airport as they sought freedom and peace.
Death is cruel, and when it comes in a ravenous cluster, it is overwhelming. It was to such an overwhelmed community that Paul wrote these words:
We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters,1 Thessolonians 4:13-14
about those who have fallen asleep,
so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose,
so too will God, through Jesus,
bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
This remarkable hope, this blessed assurance, is the defining character of the Christian heart. It is the power that lifts us out of darkness and gives us the courage to praise God in all circumstances.
Sing to the Lord a new song;Psalm 96: 1-4
sing to the Lord, all the whole earth.
Sing to the Lord and bless the divine name;
proclaim the good news of our salvation from day to day.
Declare the glory of the Lord among the nations
and the wonders of God among all peoples.
For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised,
more awesome than all other gods….
We are a people called to believe the declaration of today’s Gospel, that Jesus Christ is among us to restore Creation to eternal life:
He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.Luke 4:17-21
He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
Rolling up the scroll,
he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,
and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.
He said to them,
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
And it is fulfilled every day,
in our lights and even in our shadows,
if we but believe.
Bring us, O Lord, at our last awakening into the house and gate of heaven,Prayer of John Donne
to enter into that gate and dwell in that house,
where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light;
no noise nor silence, but one equal music;
no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession;
no ends nor beginning, but one equal eternity;
in the habitation of thy glory and dominion, world without end.
Poetry: John Donne (1572–1631)- Death Be Not Proud (Holy Sonnet X)
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so; For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me. From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be, Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow, And soonest our best men with thee do go, Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery. Thou'art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men, And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell, And poppy'or charms can make us sleep as well And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then? One short sleep past, we wake eternally, And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
Music: Benedictus – 2Cellos